Honestly, the idea that the government is spying on U.S. citizens doesn't come as that big a surprise to me. It's been happening in some form or another since the McCarthy era. It's just that now the tools exist to do it on a much larger, much more cohesive scale.
Is this a slippery slope to a loss of privacy? Hard to say. I mean, according to the articles on this thing that I've read, they only initially store the meta-data of phone calls, and it's only if something looks odd in that do they go and retrieve the phone call content itself. Which makes sense, as I don't think even the NSA has enough computers to store all content from all phone calls made in the U.S., even if we're just limiting it to mobile phones from Verizon.
But here's the thing... is it a loss of privacy? Yes and no. Sure, if you've done nothing wrong, it's a bit insulting and invasive to have your phone calls (even just the meta-data) recorded. But we currently live in a world of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and, hell, whatever else where millions of people share data about their own lives that they never would have even ten years ago.
Is it legal? Technically, yes. And for this iteration of spying, you can mostly thank the Patriot Act, although it's hardly the only legislation allowing it. Is it justified? Ehhhh.... that's the tricky part. If this program had caught the Boston Bombers before they did their thing during the marathon, I think a lot less people would be having problems with the program as it currently exists. But it's awfully hard in the current age of cynicism and mistrust of our own government to take their word at the idea that it's being used to stop terrorism. I mean, hell, Congress has something like a 6% approval rating right now. The people, both parties and independents, do not have a bunch of warm fuzzies for those in power right now.
But that's the thing, isn't it? You look, and there is no rioting in the streets. There are no jackbooted thugs kicking down doors and hauling people off as political prisoners. Hell, Turkey is having riots over the government getting rid of a park, for fuck's sake. And we have.... well, some anger. Some politicians saying this is terrible, and others saying that it isn't. But we don't have riots. We don't have civic unrest.
Is it because the vast majority of us are that damn apathetic about this? Or is it actually not that big a deal? Or is it because no matter who is in power, this would happen regardless?
Maybe Bill Hicks had it right:
I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs." "I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking." "Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!" "Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control. Here's Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons."